David Clemmons, Publisher/Editor of The VolunTourist, responds to some of your questions and emails. (Additional questions and responses are posted on the VolunTourism.org Blog)
Volume 5, Issue 2 Reader Comments & Other Mail
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I have taken a moment to review your website and realize that you are a very large corporation, with extensive vendor/supply chain relationships.
As I have worked with corporations on VolunTourism Programmes, I would suggest that a methodical approach to developing your VolunTourism programme would be ideal.
1) Start with an Executive Audit - determine the over-arching goals and objectives of establishing a VolunTourism programme - will it be strategic, for example? who will pay for it? when will it begin? will
there be paid time off for employees to participate? or will they use vacation pay? what department will oversee the activities? what organizational structure, if any, will be involved? what are the liability issues for the company? who will review the legal implications of the programme? (These are just examples of some of the questions that would be included in an executive audit.)
2) Conduct an Employee Audit - what personal/professional goals & objectives would they like to realize through the experience? why would they like to participate (motivations)? what charitable causes would they like to support? what experience, if any, do they have in volunteering? how much time would they like to dedicate to volunteering and how much to travel & tourism-related activities? (These are just some of the questions that would be included in an employee audit.)
Once these two steps have been completed, you will know whether to address the questions you have asked me in your email. You may discover that the company is not ready for VolunTourism. You may discover that employees are not ready for VolunTourism. Or you may discover that both Executives and Employees are ready to embrace a VolunTourism Programme and you will then be prepared to move to the next steps - some of which you have asked.
I realize that this may not be the answer you were hoping to receive, but I must tell you that approaching VolunTourism in a fashion that is any less as thorough as your current business operations will undermine its long-term sustainability and can have potentially detrimental ramifications for your brand and business as a whole.
VolunTourism Programmes, when developed with the same methodical approaches that are consistently implemented throughout your business operations, can lead to significant, measurable benefits for a company, its employees, and its stakeholders - shareholders, customers, and vendors/suppliers - and, most of all, to the communities being served.
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|"A 'Square' for the A.V. Bukani School Quilt Project" Copyright © The Kugler Family, All Rights Reserved
Thank you for your thoughtful email and your desire to partner with VolunTourism.org.
As VolunTourism.org is not a sending or receiving organization, I would suggest that you take some time to review the entities listed under the "VolunTourism Trips" section of our website. There you will find some entities that already conduct projects in Kenya. These entities would be the most likely choices for collaboration with your operation.
You may also take time to register to use the Forum on The VolunTourist.org. There you can share with travelers and practitioners alike in the General Discussions Forum.
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Thanks so much for the email, and my apologies for the tardy response - since this should have been addressed in the last issue of the newsletter.
Question 1: Voluntourist or volunteer - this is a very interesting situation that continues to develop. As you say, "voluntourist" is the precise descriptor for these individuals. However, logic does not necessarily translate. I have been looking at the "anti-voluntourist" situation from multiple perspectives - one of which I am touching on in this issue's Feature 2: Socially Desirable Response - - How Does VolunTourism Begin to Account for This Factor?
If you look at the recent publication, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, by Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D., (also the author of Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled - - and More Miserable Than Ever Before) and W. Keith Campbell, Ph.D., you will see that a "very positive and inflated view of self" is quite possibly a contributing factor. "I don't want to be called a 'voluntourist' because I could never be a tourist. I'm too good for that." Interestingly, this attitude does not seem to be limited to Americans only, as Dr. Benson and others have reported.
In an article on Mashable entitled "Study: Social Media Is for Narcissists," Dr. Twenge continues to build on her research by partnering with Youth Pulse in surveying 1,068 college students. From Mashable:
"While it's no surprise that social media would cater to a more self-promotional audience, it's certainly interesting to note that not only does Gen Y think of their social behaviors as narcissistic, but almost 40% (39.27%) agree that 'being self-promoting, narcissistic, overconfident, and attention-seeking is helpful for succeeding in a competitive world.'"
A conflation of various factors is certainly involved
- one cannot explain this away to narcissism; but I think it does bring forward an interesting side to all of this. (I would not recommend using the "you're a narcissist" pitch every time someone balks at "voluntourist.") Perhaps you could work with local residents to craft a Thai term for "voluntourist." This could be an interesting exercise, and when it is written in Thai, it might prove to be more acceptable to your 'volunteers.'
Question 2: Certification will be very hard pressed given the economic conditions of our time. I recently offered a blog post on this subject - Fair Trade Certification Of VolunTourism. In it you will find a good article from Justin Francis from Responsible Travel.com who speaks out against certification. As you know, I have shunned certification from the beginning with VolunTourism.org. I believe the onus lies squarely on the shoulders of the traveler. If you have fulfilled the criteria for Responsible Travel certification, I would say you are correct in your assumption regarding redundancy.
Question 3: The folks I would turn to are Tourism ROI. This group is making strides to educate tourism investors on the options available - unique funding projects around the world. You may try the Skoll Foundation or other socially-minded investment schemes. Also, there are traveler-based "Giving Circles." Such an option could enable you to create micro-business loans to assist in the process. One entity to look at here, one that I interviewed earlier this year, is The Clarence Foundation. Even if they cannot help you, they may be able to provide you with some suggestions or networking assistance.
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